Google translated from French
Letarte, Dany Ward and Rock Proulx and ordered a new trial.
This is a major turnaround in the police investigation carried out in 2013, which aimed to deal a heavy blow to a drug network linked to the Hells Angels. The kayak operation had monopolized more than 200 police officers spread across the Eastern Townships.
Lack of rigor
In its judgment rendered on November 19, the highest court in Quebec notes that the trial held at the Sherbrooke courthouse was “punctuated by very singular incidents” and that the management of the documents filed during the hearings “lacked rigor” .
The three judges of the Court of Appeal emphasize that the trial gave rise to numerous ex parte hearings (that is to say: in the absence of one of the two parties), in this case the defense.
However, in the great majority of these hearings, the defendants knew nothing of their contents or of the decisions taken at the end of each of them. “They were then deprived of the opportunity to explore the merits of these decisions or to assess the impact on their rights,” said the Court of Appeal.
The court also blames Judge Julie Beauchesne, who presided over this trial. Despite the numerous hearings and the lack of rigor of the public prosecutor “the judge had the duty not to lose sight of the rights of the accused”, affirms the Court of Appeal.
In addition, the prosecution itself admitted before the Court of Appeal that the numerous ex parte hearings “quickly complicated the administration of the trial”.
Faced with all these facts, the Court of Appeal came to the conclusion that it must quash the judgment pronounced against Eric Letarte, Dany Ward and Rock Proulx and order a new trial.
It should be noted that only Éric Letarte and Dany Ward will be able to stand a new trial, given that Rock Proulx died last September, three weeks before the hearing of the case before the Court of Appeal.
The decision of the Court of Appeal also applies to property belonging to the accused and which was confiscated as part of the police operation.
It is not yet clear when the new trial will take place and whether the prosecution can appeal the judgment.
Éric Letarte, Dany Ward and Rock Proulx were found guilty in November 2016 of all charges brought against them, including: gangsterism, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, trafficking in narcotics and possession of a prohibited weapon with ammunition.
The charges stem from an investigation conducted by the Sûreté du Québec between September 2012 and April 2013. This investigation was largely based on an undercover operation with the Hells Angels in the Eastern Townships.
To achieve this, the SQ had signed an agreement with a drug seller in the Sherbrooke region, who became a civilian undercover agent, the Court of Appeal said in its judgment.
The kayak operation took place on the morning of June 12, 2013. Several searches were carried out in particular in Sherbrooke, Saint-Denis-de-Brompton, Windsor, Dudswell, Stukely Sud and in the Canton of Cleveland.
More than 235 police officers from the SQ, the Service de police de Sherbrooke, the Régie de police Memphrémagog, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as well as the police forces of Granby and Bromont took part in this police strike.